Chase Elliott, a high school senior and son of racing legend Bill Elliott, held off Kyle Busch to win Friday night’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway, scoring the first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory.
In just the sixth Nationwide start of his career, Elliott, 18, drove a flawless race to win in his JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Busch was second in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, followed by California winner Kyle Larson, and Elliott’s teammates, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It was a triumphant night for Elliott, who drove with the poise of a veteran on a track where he had never race before. He became the second-youngest winner in series history behind only Joey Logano.
The victory also gave Elliott the series points lead.
"Just to have this opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any racer who wants to try and make it to the top," Elliott said. "… It just means the world to me to be here. I can’t believe it. To win here at Texas tonight — night race, I love night races — in front of a great crowd. This is a great night."
As for Elliott’s father, Bill, he said, "I’m about speechless. … For never having been to some of these places like Vegas, California and now here at Texas, to come out and beat the kind of guys that you beat, I’ll tell you what, you’ve done a heck of a job."
For runner-up Busch, he said his car faded at the end, and despite trying a number of different lines around the 1.5-mile track, couldn’t make up any ground in the final laps.
"When Chase’s car went good, that’s when our’s went bad," Busch said.
It was an exciting night from the beginning.
Harvick started on the pole as JR Motorsports put all four of its cars into the top six on the starting grid.
Busch and Larson both had troubles in inspection and had to start out back, but they were up to 11th and 12th, respectively, by Lap 10. And by Lap 20, Busch was up to sixth. Twelve laps later, Busch passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. to take over second place, as he set off in hot pursuit of Harvick, who led by 5.743 seconds at that point.
At the one-quarter distance, Lap 50, Harvick still led, ahead of Earnhardt, Busch, Elliott and Larson.
Finally on Lap 88, Busch passed Harvick for the first lead change of the race, pulling Larson with him into second. Shortly thereafter, Harvick began complaining of a chatter in his front end, which turned out to be a wheel weight that fell off, while Busch reported a vibration.
On Lap 136, Elliott created just the second lead change of the race, going under Busch for the top spot.
With 50 laps to go, Earnhardt closed up on Elliott and appeared ready to take the lead, finally making the pass on Lap 155.
A caution flag for a crash between Jamie Dick and Chris Buescher sent the field down pit road on Lap 170, with Harvick regaining the lead under caution over Elliott, Earnhardt, Larson and Busch.
The green waved on Lap 178 and Harvick went to the lead ahead of Elliott, with Busch third.
With 16 laps to go, Elliott retook the lead, going around Harvick on the high side, Busch moving into second. "To pass him for the lead there at the end, that’s pretty crazy," Elliott said.
Elliott quickly jumped out to a 1.323-second lead, as he set his sights on his first victory. And he pulled away at the end, taking the checkered 2.666 seconds ahead of Busch, the winningest driver in series history.